Today we analyse Qantas Socceroos hopefuls from Melbourne Victory, Melbourne Heart and Gold Coast United.
With the Qantas Socceroos- next battle with Saudi Arabia just around the corner on February 29 at AAMI Park, we thought it was time to profile some of the Hyundai A-League stars in contention for selection.
With Australia-s path to the next stage of qualification already assured and top of the group also locked away there is the chance Socceroos coach Holger Osieck may give some Hyundai A-League players the chance to shine in the green and gold.
With that in mind today we are taking a look at players from Gold Coast United, Melbourne Heart and Melbourne Victory who may just be in the hunt for Socceroo selection.
Melbourne Victory Harry Kewell (Striker): The Qantas Socceroo icon has incrementally improved over the course of the season and is starting to show regular flashes of his old brilliance.
The fire in the belly clearly still burns brightly and Kewell has stated his hunger to add to his 55 caps in this his fifth FIFA World Cup campaign, a record he shares with Mark Schwarzer.
Archie Thompson (Striker): The Victory fan favourite has been rolling back the years with some dynamic and high-energy displays this term. It is hard to believe Thompson is now 33 given he has lost little of his trademark pace, nor an uncanny ability to get in behind the defence.
Another with a slice of FIFA World Cup history in his keep after a world record 13 goals in a single match against American Samoa 11 years ago, Thompson would love to again take to the international arena in his adopted hometown.
Mark Milligan (Defender): A brief ongoing loan stint with Melbourne Victory has thrust Milligan back into the spotlight. Milligan has featured in numerous Qantas Socceroo squads over recent years, and although game time has been relatively infrequent, the Sydneysider has turned in reliable performances on the international stage.
Milligan, who will soon return to Japanese second tier side JEF United, is highly versatile and can play anywhere across the backline or in a defensive midfield role.
Ante Covic (Goalkeeper): After being third-choice goalkeeper for the Qantas Socceroos at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the big shot-stopper will forever be a trivia night subject, however there is no denying his form this season in a struggling Melbourne Victory side.
Although now in the twilight of his career, Covic has, aside from the odd misjudgement, been a reassuring presence at the Victory with his considerable size and experience only furthering his cause.
Eli Babalj (Striker): The powerfully-built Melbourne Heart youngster has been one of the revelations of the Hyundai A-League season with some dynamic displays, albeit without achieving consistency.
Perennially compared to legendary Socceroo striker Mark Viduka due to his size and close control, Babalj differs in that he invariably prefers to drop deep to receive possession. Goals, like his form, have been erratic but the potential of the Heart frontman is undeniable.
Mate Dugandzic (Midfielder): Another youngster that has turned in some superb performances amidst some erratic displays. Dugandzic undoubtedly has the technical skill to play at the top level, and offers the ability to play a wide role or down the middle.
He has continued to grow at the Heart after moving from city rivals Victory, where his style, in particular an ability to score from deep positions, mirrors that of veteran midfielder Tom Pondeljak.
Aziz Behich (Defender): The 21-year-old has made significant strides since being deployed as a left fullback under John van-t Schip at the Heart. It is a position that has caused some consternation for Qantas Socceroos boss Holger Osieck over the past year making Behich-s transformation perfectly timed.
The first player to join the Heart from Melbourne Victory, Behich has looked comfortable in his new role and, perhaps with a forward-s mindset still lingering, the youngster looks to get forward at every opportunity.
Gold Coast United James Brown (Midfielder): Gold Coast-s dynamic wide player enjoyed a stunning opening to the season, playing with a verve that would have done his soul-singing Motown namesake proud.
Quality goals came with a rush - no easy feat in a struggling team - and selection for the Qantas Australian U23s duly ensued. His form has wavered since the early rounds but this campaign has nevertheless been somewhat of a breakthrough season for Brown.
Michael Thwaite (Defender): The Gold Coast skipper has continued to develop and mature as both a footballer and a leader in recent years. Always a talented ball-player, Thwaite has been a rock-solid influence for the club in what has been an embattled season.
Socceroo selection came at a relatively early age for Thwaite - including as a squad-member for that famous Uruguay match in 2005 - and now the Cairns product has perhaps even more claim for selection.
Think we missed anyone from these three clubs, or want to have your say on who you think deserves a start? Then leave a comment below
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